Finish Strong : A Seat for Nostalgia

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“Would you like it?”

I was still recovering from a slight case of tree envy I acquired while helping Grandma set up her new, flocked tree when she offered to give me a nativity set Mom hand-glazed and fired years ago. I’ve been dreaming of ways to bring unique touches to our home this Christmas. In this moment, I realized that even more than having a perfectly trimmed tree, this scene would serve as a reminder of how faith is central to the celebration of Christmas in our family.

We’ve closed the chapter on another Thanksgiving and December is almost upon us. In the middle of this holiday season, there is evidence of history and culture shaping our traditions.

This year, I am inspired to uphold traditions that have been part of our family for as long as I can remember. Driving around to look at lights, reading Luke 2 aloud on Christmas morning and baking cinnamon rolls will all make the list.

I’m making room at the table for Nostalgia.

What about the childhood days of my grandparents? What traditions may have been lost along the way that I might be able to restore? This might require a little digging and a trip down Memory Lane, but I have a feeling the conversation will be a treasured moment.

With the opportunity to hold to traditions of the past, we create new experiences, making memories to last a lifetime. Need a few ideas to get the wheels turning?

  • Keep the artificial tree in the box and go on a hunt to harvest a live tree.
  • Start a batch of wassail on the stove and invite friends over to watch a Christmas movie.
  • Let the warmth of candles light your home in the evening.
  • Research how people around the world celebrate.
  • Go caroling.
  • Gather the family to see the Nutcracker, A Christmas Carol or a Christmas concert put on by the local symphony.
  • Skip the mass mailing of Christmas cards and send a few handwritten notes to the ones you hold dear.
  • Go on a winter excursion to see your favorite summer view covered in snow.
  • Attend a Christmas Eve service.
  • Take the kids shopping for toys and groceries to support a local drive.
  • Craft a handmade ornament or learn to knit a scarf.
  • Bundle up to watch a light parade.
  • Add a Christmas classic to your December reading list.
  • Hunt for unique decorations at the flea market or second-hand store.

In it all, let’s discover the joy of rediscovering tradition. 2016 may be the year when we begin (or begin, again) a tradition to be carried on for generations to come!

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Finish Strong : Get Outside

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  1. Inhale.
  2. Exhale.
  3. Repeat.

Now, pencil some time into this busy season to make that happen outside.

When the weather turns chilly, we retreat into the great indoors. The crackle from the warm fire, paired with a peppermint mocha and cozy slippers invites us to slow our tempo and enjoy the quiet moments. (Don’t worry, there will be more on the importance of rest in the coming weeks, but those words are saved for another day.)

There is a concerted effort to help our nation’s children spend more time playing outside and less time in front of their electronics. As adults, we could benefit from doing more of the same. We rely on the treadmill belt to help us improve our fitness and we receive information from a variety of sources, most of them louder than our own thoughts. Rarely do we invest time to increase our heart rate while breathing in oxygen recycled by the trees lining a hiking trail, recovering to the sound of a flowing stream. Taking our workouts outside might open our eyes to the wonder of the beauty around us, allowing even a few moments to listen to what’s happening in our minds and hearts. What an adventure it is to explore Creation, while talking to the Creator of the universe!

“Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.” Psalm 95:6

There are six weeks left in 2016. Join in the challenge to #finishstrongin2016 by incorporating at least one outdoor workout into each week. Shred the gnar on your favorite mountain or take a walk on your lunch break. Post pictures of your adventures and share what you learn along the way!

Finish Strong : Giving Thanks and Giving Back

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Do you have friends who are “fired up” this week? You do. I do. There are voices of passion in the wake of the election. From every point on the spectrum, someone is making his or her enthusiasm or disappointment known. When our hearts are deeply rooted in a cause, we cannot help but to be moved to words. The words come easy.

“For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” Luke 6:45

Our words can carry with them great force, but talk can be cheap. We can go on and on, a mile a minute, sharing thoughts. At the end of the day, where is the action?

In light of both the response to the election outcomes and my work with clients, I have been thinking about how it relates to the Thanksgiving holiday. We post to social media all we are grateful for, most commonly the people, places and things in our lives. What if we take time in this next week to come at this from a different angle? What if we consider giving thanks for the passion that stirs in us? From a place of gratitude, what would it look like to then give back, taking steps to move the needle?   We are all equipped with such unique purpose and our purpose becomes tangible when we put action to our passion.

During a walk with friends this weekend, we talked about how difficult it is to raise children to see beyond the “getting” of gifts for birthdays and holidays. Our conversation turned to ways we can show them what it means to have hearts of servants, authentically loving the world around them through both word and deed. The children of the next generation are watching us closely to see our response. If we can demonstrate this idea of putting action to our passions, they have the potential to be better equipped to heed our instruction and take it to the next level.

Start big. Start small. It doesn’t matter. Finish strong in 2016 by identifying a single act that will make an impact before this year comes to a close. Take it one step further by including friends and family to team up in giving back. It’s time we live out our passion instead of making noise.

Finish Strong : Stay in your lane.

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Today is the start of an eight-week series, designed to challenge us to close out this year with a sense of the true spirit of the holidays, discovering and searching along the way, setting us on a course to catapult us into 2017. “Finish Strong in 2016” is not a one-way conversation. This is as much for me as it is for anyone else.

In a few hours, the next chapter of our nation’s history will begin.  Our ears have been filled with the voices of each candidate, pointing out the failures and flaws of the other.  By the end of it all, it was difficult to decipher the core values and true intent of each person running.  Many voters feel they are unable to cast their vote for someone they truly believe in.

If comparison has infiltrated your own thinking, it’s very likely that your response to life is tainted by a measurement of where you are, in relation to everyone around you. We look to our right to find someone who is living a very different story than our own. Look to the left? Another story. Scroll through social media feeds to find bits of stories. You hear echoes of a story as you listen to the woman in line at the checkout counter. Your colleague in the cubicle across the way? Another story is played out and you are a witness. Our stories often cross over like threads in a tapestry and yet, our contribution is unique. Each thread composed of the fiber of our being – the individual we are created to be.

32 trips around the sun and I am still learning what it means to honor and celebrate the stories of those around me without plotting my own story on a chart right next to theirs – Happiness on the Y-axis and Success on the X-axis.

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“Sure, they just learned they are having another baby, but they look EXHAUSTED.”

“What a gorgeous wedding gown! To have found the love of your life AND have that body? I would give anything.”

“I’m surprised he landed the promotion. Whatever it takes to pay off those massive luxury car loans, right? Maybe someday my boss will recognize my talent.”

“Oh, don’t mind me. I’m over here sipping my coffee in the backroom of my retail-store-prison while they float around the coast of Santorini.”

There is a phrase that has been ringing in my ears for the better part of 2016: Stay in your lane. On August 9, Michael Phelps went up against Chad le Clos at the Olympic games in Rio. At one point, Le Clos looks over to see Phelps gain the lead. I bleed red, white and blue during the Olympics. Even so, I wanted to yell at the television screen, “STAY IN YOUR LANE!!!” I’ve been there. I’ve done that. Someone in my line of sight takes the next step on their journey and a wave of defeat takes me out.

It’s not a perfect science and it requires loads of grace, but I believe we can begin to change our attitude toward our own situation, even over the course of this next week. When we encounter the stories of others, we have the opportunity to both honor and to celebrate their present situation. The people in our lives will be encouraged by words that are spoken from a place of authenticity. From there, we get back in our lane. Their story might inspire us to run faster, swim harder, be bolder, but we cannot let it slow our pace. One glance in the wrong direction can take our thoughts into a vicious cycle that leads us to believe we have less than what it takes.

So take courage, my friends! Leave no room for comparison to take up space in your day. Today is the starting point to our strongest year-end finish yet.